Friday, July 24, 2009

Anacostia River Flood Control Part 2/ AWS Lecture Series

A few older residents we spoke to at our Public Day and other outreach events had strong recollections of the flooding of Bladensburg. These floods continued until 1955, when the Army Corp of Engineers, in collaboration with several state and county agencies, commenced work on the Anacostia River Flood Control and Navigation Project. The collaborating agencies included the Prince George’s County Commissioners, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission and the State Roads Commission. This project was described by the WSSC: “The former twisting, winding stream has been freed from kinks, straightened and dredged to a depth of six feet at mean low tide; levees ranging from three feet to 18 feet in height and up to 118 feet in width guard both sides of the river; drainage channels and pumping stations have been built, and new bridges and highways constructed”.

The following images are excerpted from a publication by the WSSC created to explain the project to the public. The document is entitled "Taming A River: Anacostia Flood Control and Navigation Project". The first image shows the engineering plan (dotted line) superimposed over a photograph of the Anacostia River stretching from the northern end of Bladensburg up to Riverdale. (#3 on the map is Baltimore Avenue, #2 is Decatur, #1 is Riverdale Road).

The next image shows a flooded scene from the Peace Cross. This picture is from the Washington Evening Star and was taken after a storm in the summer of 1955.
The last image, also from 1955, shows the flooded landscape around the Decatur Street bridge.

Hopefully we have seen the last of the flooding of the Anacostia River. Though it has not asserted itself in quite so dramatic a way as it last did in 1955, the river is still central to life in Bladensburg. To understand the history, the geography, archaeology and the cultural life of Bladensburg, we can't forget the effects this mighty river has had on its history. By the same token, we must also examine the many ways that human contact has deeply affected the river throughout history.

On Thursday, July 30, the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) will host a lecture series event featuring Dr. Harriette Phelps, Professor Emeritus at the University of the District of Columbia's Department of Biological and Environmental Science. Dr. Phelps's research focuses on active biomonitoring of the Anacostia River using the Asiatic clam (Corbicula fluminea) to identify areas where river sediments have been heavily polluted by toxins, including pesticides and heavy metals.

The lecture, which will include a slide show and question-and-answer period, will take place on Thursday, July 30, 2009 between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. RSVPs are appreciated (see below for more information).

When: Thursday, July 30, 2009; 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Where: The George Washington House; 4302 Baltimore Ave.; Bladensburg, MD 20710
RSVPs: Please call 301-699-6204 or write to Please let us know how many people will be joining you at this event.


  1. Thanks for the history.

    You have the Peace Cross photo twice, missing Decatur St.

  2. Thanks! I fixed it.
    There are a few more dramatic photos of the flooding in Bladensburg. There were also some amazing stories I heard. More posts to come!